The Big Easy Sisters; Parish of the Muddy Waters
Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Inc.
Who Are The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence?
We are the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Parish of the Muddy Waters. We are a non-profit 501(c)3 organization comprised of men and women dedicated to the education, support and development of our greater community. We are part of a larger, international organization, with chapters in over 30 cities all over the world.
The Sisters were first organized in 1979 in San Francisco, CA, and have spread across the United States and the World over the last almost 40 years. Our mission is to Promulgate Universal Joy and Expiate Stigmatic Guilt. The Big Easy Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are a 501 (c) 3 organization which engages in fundraising for other 501 (c) 3 organizations which are underfunded in the New Orleans area. We support Organizations with a cross section of clients, from Belle Reeves to NOAIDS, from the Tipitina Foundation to the Food Pantry at St. Anna’s Episcopal Church, which feeds over 800 families in New Orleans, and many others. Membership in the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (SPI) is viewed as a calling. We are called to the vocation of Perpetual Indulgence, and we take both our vocation and our vows seriously. We are 21st Century Nuns and the roles we play in the community are important, challenging, and very rewarding.
The Big Easy Sisters work in conjunction with other organizations in New Orleans, including the Lords of Leather, the New Orleans Pups and Handlers, the Renegade Bears, and Skinz and Bonez. We believe our involvement strengthens the Queer community of New Orleans, and supports its infrastructure.
The Parish of the Muddy Waters was founded in February, 2012, became a fully professed house in October, 2015, and continues to grow and serve the community of the New Orleans. We are a growing house, and currently have 16 Fully Professed members, and eight people in the Novice, Postulant, and Aspirant phases of their journey to Fully Professed Status.
The Muddy Mississippi
So You Think You Might Want to Join The Sisters?
Our membership is viewed as a calling. We are called to the vocation of Perpetual Indulgence, and we take both our vocation and our vows seriously. We are 21st Century Nuns and the roles we play in the community are important, challenging, and very rewarding.
Who Comprises the Big Easy Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence?
People from all walks of life are welcomed into our ranks: Gay, Straight, Bisexual, Pansexual, Asexual, Male, Female, Cisgender, Transgender, and Intergender. Some of our members have children, some are married, and some are single. All we ask is a willing commitment to our values as a House (organization) and active participation in the work we do. We have a lot of fun when we go out in the community made up as Sisters and Guards (known as “manifesting”), and we work hard at our fundraising projects, representing our organization in a positive manner, and being utterly fabulous while we do it all. We engage in what we call Bar Ministry, where we go out into the community and meet with everyone and anyone. We listen to their stories, and we expiate stigmatic guilt and promulgate universal joy. While we follow the progression of Catholic nuns, our House is comprised of Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Pagans, Atheists, and none of the above.
Steps to Becoming a Member of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence
Once one decides to join the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (SPI), otherwise known as a “calling”, there are several levels of membership which one accomplishes. The process can take as little as a year, though most members take a few months longer to reach Fully Professed Status. The levels are Aspirant, Postulant, Novice, and Fully Professed. These titles apply to both Sisters and Guards.
Becoming an Aspirant is as easy as attending a meeting of the local SPI House and declaring an intention to join. The requirements for Aspirants are to attend a minimum of two meetings and to attend two manifestations (when the Sisters and Guards go out “in face”), while dressed in regular street clothes. After these requirements are met, the Fully Professed members have a conversation with the Aspirant and they vote whether to elevate the Aspirant to Postulant.
Once one becomes a Postulant, one asks a Fully Professed member to become one’s Big Sister or Big Brother. This person will mentor the Postulant through their journey to becoming a Fully Professed Sister or Guard. Postulants are allowed to manifest with the other members of the House when they are manifesting (going out dressed as Sisters and Guards, aka, “in face”). Postulants are required to wear a white shirt/blouse and black skirt/trousers. They wear a sailor cap, with a white veil attached to it for Postulant Sisters, and a plain sailor cap for Postulant Guards. There are certain strictures on the makeup Postulants wear, which they will learn from their Big Sister/Brother. Postulants are not allowed to speak to people outside the House about the House while in face, and if they are so approached, are expected to call a Fully Professed over to answer any questions. While in the Postulant role, they are expected to learn the rules of manifesting, how to behave while manifesting, and the Sistory (history of the Order and the House). This is done under the guidance of the Postulant’s Big Sister/Brother. Postulancy lasts a minimum of three months. Elevation occurs after the Postulant has a conversation with the Fully Professed and demonstrates a knowledge of the Sistory and about the House.
After elevation to Novice, the responsibilities of a junior member increase. Allowed now to speak with non-members while out in face, they are expected to be functioning members of the House, though they still do not have a vote. The most important responsibility of a Novice is to design a novice project. The novice project must benefit the House or the community in some way. While it is the responsibility of the Novice to design and execute a successful project, the Big Sister/Brother is there to help, as well as other members of the House. No one walks the path alone, and there are all sorts of manner of support in this endeavor. Novices dress as they wish, differentiated from Fully Professed by wearing a white veil (Sisters), or a white baseball cap (Guards). During this time they still work with their Big Sister/Brother.
Upon becoming a Fully Professed member of the House, one becomes a voting member, and eligible for running for the Board (Abbess, Mistress of Novices, Mistress of Coin, Mistress of Quill, Mistress of Protocol). Fully Professed dress and makeup as they like, and wear a black coronet and veil of any color. Fully Professed Guards wear a black leather cap. The Fully Professed mentor junior members, and represent the House to the Outside World. They continue to participate in fund raisers, and some have turned their novice projects into annual or bi-monthly events. They engage in education and out-reach to the larger community, work to be present for people, and to participate in Bar Ministry.
Postulant Guard Phillip McCann
Postulant Sister Mila Chokabitch-Proper
Novice Sister Onya Neeze
Novice Guard Buddha Bear
Sister Gloree Bea Divine
Guard Rusty Hymen
Sister Diarreah en Franck
Sister or Guard? Which is Best for Me?
Deciding whether to be a Sister or a Guard is a personal choice. While the roles are somewhat different , in our House Sisters and Guards are co-equal. Sisters are more likely to go out and meet people, be fabulous, and energize the community. Who doesn't want to have their picture taken with a Sister who outshines any glamour goddess of 1930's Hollywood? But it isn't all fabulousness and modeling for the camera. Sisters work hard to help raise funds for charitable organizations and educate the community. And they are always there to lend a willing ear
Guards protect the members of the House. Their role is to make sure the group stays together while wandering the French Quarter, to keep people from harassing the Sisters, to set up and break down beer busts, and to make sure everyone is safe while manifesting in public.
There are Sisters who originally joined with the intention of being a Guard, and at least one Guard who joined with the intention of being a Sister. A very general rule of thumb, which has its exceptions, is that Sisters tend to be extroverts, and Guards tend to be introverts. During the Aspirant phase, one can weigh the pros and cons of each role within the House, and most members know before they elevate to Postulancy which role is suited for them. It should be noted that the Big Easy Sisters are a House that is Bi-Sororical, and that members can be both Sister and Guard, and at least two people have exercised that option.